Saturday, October 25, 2014

An October Food & Exercise Update & Kittehs

October has been a busy month! We participated in another 5K, this was focused on Autism Awareness in Greenville, NC. We participated with a BUNCH of kids who were part of a running club (I had no idea such a thing existed for kids!) and it was so inspiring to see these kids take part of a 5K (and completely kick our butts along the way! lol)... It was a really fun event! Michael and I both finished around 49 minutes which was a record for us! I had burning lungs, but it felt really good to shave 6 minutes off my time from the September 5K! 

This month was also a milestone for us as Michael and I celebrated 10 years of marriage! It's gone by so fast, and it's fun to look back on the blog, because we had only been married 3 years when I started writing Ginger Lemon Girl... so we've grown along with this blog! 

It also marked a month of a huge change in our way of eating. I decided to start following a "whole-foods-plant-based-low-oil" eating plan. Basically the "McDougall Plan" if you're familiar with vegetarian/vegan doctor programs. Of course I follow the plan the best way I can with a gluten intolerance and a soy allergy, so I'm definitely not 100% McDougall, but very close. I decided with my Dad's medical history of heart problems and other health issues that it was time to make a permanent change. And somehow, it's been relatively easy. Much easier than I thought it would be. 

I also had a recent check up at my doctor's office and I had lost 11 pounds since my visit in late August and my blood pressure was the lowest it's ever tested in the past 10 years. My doctor said that I may even be able to go off one of my blood pressure medications very soon! So I feel very good about this dietary decision. I feel like I'm headed in the right direction to regain my overall health and I feel like I'm truly feeding my body well. I'm also incredibly thankful my husband is so supportive and willing to eat most of the "new" foods in our menu rotation! :-) 

I thought I'd share a sample of some of the things from our kitchen the past few weeks. Most don't have a specific recipe... just things I threw together to make a quick meal. I have not used any animal products in over a month and for my spiritual and religious beliefs...along with my health, it's just been a really great decision. 

 Rice chex with almond milk, sliced almonds, and blueberries... loaded cereal is always a favorite breakfast or snack! 

One of my favorite snacks right now is just plain 'ol drained & rinsed canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans). I could make them from scratch, but the canned variety from Harris Teeter is so easy! This snack is what seriously pulled me through the first week of being vegan. I think I probably ate at least 3 cans!

 In some ways after I had spend so much time and energy writing cookbooks the past few years I was "over" cooking and prep work. I just didn't want to do it anymore, it was major burnout... but changing my way of eating has given me a new energy in the kitchen and helped me to enjoy cooking again! This is the prep for kale & potato hash, one of my favorite breakfasts! Chopped potatoes, mushrooms, kale, green pepper, onions, and there's garlic in there somewhere!

The finished hash! I served it with salsa and half an avocado per serving. One of the keys to following a "McDougall" type plan is to eat as many whole-food, plant-foods as possible with no added oils. McDougall recommends that the fats in your diet come from whole food sources such as avocado, seeds, or nuts. I limit these foods because I'm trying to lose weight, but include one or two servings a week. 

A rare treat! I doubt these muffins were actually vegan or oil-free, but they WERE GLUTEN-FREE and this was from a meal out at Sweet Tomatoes in Raleigh, NC! Recently they have started offering a limited selection of gluten-free baked goods occasionally and these were gluten-free maple nut muffins. They were absolutely delicious and I was so impressed with Sweet Tomatoes offering a gluten-free baked good for those with celiac or gluten sensitivity.

My salad from our meal out at Sweet Tomatoes. It's amazing to me that I can enjoy a salad without eggs or cheese on it. I honestly never thought that was something I could do long term. But I feel SO GOOD with this way of eating, that I really don't miss the animal proteins at all. They even had gluten-free chilled brown rice pasta on the salad bar! This salad was early in my journey, so the dressing was not dairy-free (at least I don't think it was)... now I'm usually dressing salads with red wine vinegar, or apple cider vinegar, or a homemade tahini lemon dressing... and freshly ground salt & pepper.

 This was a "no-meat" loaf... in which Michael was seriously heavy-handed on the ketchup! haha! This recipe was from the Happy Herbivore cookbook, it was called "The Hippie Loaf" created for a friend who had celiac disease. We honestly were not big fans of this version of a no-meat loaf. I prefer this version that I tried several years ago... however, the mashed potatoes were made from yukon gold potatoes and simply mashed with Harris Teeter vegetable broth, a little nutritional yeast, and lots of added garlic and onion seasoning... we ate the entire pot. I love not feeling guilty about eating mashed potatoes!

For breakfast and sometimes lunch I often have veggie sandwiches loaded with hummus, sliced red peppers, sliced mushrooms, alfalfa sprouts, sliced tomatoes, sliced cooked potatoes, spinach, kale, etc... all put between two slices of gluten-free bread for me... it's filling, healthy, and is a perfect vegan "fast food" meal. McDougall recommends making your own hummus without any added oils and limited tahini (or no tahini)... because I live in the real world and I'm just trying to get through my 9-5 everyday, I use Food Lion's Taste of Inspirations types of hummus. They don't have a lot of added oil (and are definitely not swimming in it like some brands) and I use gluten-free bread from the store that does have egg whites. It's important to me to share this because while it doesn't follow the McDougall plan completely, it's close and it's still a very healthy way to eat and it works for my personal time limitations. I truly believe you have to make a plan work for you the best way you can. Otherwise, how will you stick with it? For these sandwiches, I try to slice & prep any ingredients and have them ready in the fridge for a quick meal anytime during the week. Hummus has become my mayonnaise and I LOVE slathering it on these sandwiches!

This was a meal I made a few nights ago and it would be a really great idea for the holidays. I had bought two medium-sized acorn squashes and I wanted to fill them with something other than rice (I've eaten a lot of rice! lol)... so I decided to make a stuffing with some of the gluten-free bread we had, chopped spinach, chopped & roasted chestnuts, celery, onions, sunflower seeds, and poultry seasoning. I used vegetable broth as the "binder" for the stuffing and this meal was THE BOMB! It would definitely be a great meal for the holidays, it tasted a lot like my favorite Thanksgiving stuffing, without feeling guilty about carb overload!

This was a comfort food night. I wanted something soupy with potatoes, so we made an easy succotash stew. Just peeled & boiled red potatoes and added a can of corn, tomatoes, and lima beans to the potatoes and cooking broth. I actually made this at my mother-in-law's house and everyone seemed to enjoy it for a late dinner that night.

Dinner out for our anniversary! I can't give up sushi, so I made the decision to have veggie sushi that night and it was delicious! I had two orders of avocado sushi, and one order of a veggie roll which included avocado, cucumbers, and two types of Japanese pickles. I was a very happy camper. This was a cornerstone meal to me because I really wanted to "cheat" and order my favorite Philly roll with smoked salmon and cream cheese... but I stuck to my plan and it worked and I felt great after our dinner. 

Along with the food changes, walking has become my favorite form of both meditation and exercise. I walk 4-5 days out of each week and it's easier on some days than others. But it's slowly becoming a habit I love and something I look forward too. At first I walked most mornings around 4:30am because my work schedule had changed and that forced me to get up earlier. However... as it's gotten colder in the mornings, I've gotten lazy and become a wimp... and now generally walk at the duck pond at work around 10am. Either way... it's happening and I'm glad! I love getting that daily dose of fresh air, stretching my legs, and having that time to be thankful and meditative for the day ahead.

And last but not least... PIZZA! And that's a vegan pizza no less! This is definitely a treat because it has Daiya vegan (and gluten-free and soy-free) cheese on it, and the crust has added oil, but I can't give up pizza out occasionally and I'm just thrilled I can still get it and enjoy it and not feel guilty about it. My favorite place to get pizza is Zpizza, but Mellow Mushroom now has a vegan, gluten-free crust available as well. To be MORE McDougall compliant, I can easily leave off the Daiya and just have a tomato sauce & veggie pizza. It dawned on me about 2 months ago that over the past year I had not ordered a pizza with meat. There have been many small changes in my eating along the way that have enabled this change to come at the right time. And apparently over the past year, I've preferred a veggie pizza every time! This must be why! :-) 

And because I've been suck a slacker in my posting schedule, I thought I'd share some kitteh pictures with  you! Enjoy! 

Mollie in her favorite place lately, snuggled next to Michael in his chair.  

Max & Maya, lifelong snuggle buddies

 Max is not so much of a lapcat, but he will sit in the cat tree and stare at you intently for hours! It can be kind of creepy some days... lol!

 This is my mother-in-law's cat Tobie. He loves to sit in the fabric between her foot rest and chair when she's dozing in the living room! 

Charlie & Whiskey... these boys are bestest buddies and it's a rare day to find one not next to or on top of the other! 

Have a wonderful week! 

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Friday, October 3, 2014

ENELL AMBASSADOR: Blue Ridge Veteran's 5K - Sept. 14, 2014

Well, as you can see, I'm a wee bit behind in getting this post shared! Life has gotten busy for me with my awesome 8-5 career in the medical library so I haven't had as much time to focus on writing posts and creating new recipes... However, I have been able to incorporate a lot more movement into my everyday.... and that all started a little over a month ago because I wanted to celebrate 1 year of my Dad's new heart! 

Today (probably 10 days after starting this post!) is day 22 33 of getting up super early to start a daily practice of walking each morning. That doesn't mean I've taken a walk, every single morning... but it means I'm keeping track and it means I'm making a positive, enthusiastic effort... and that's a big change!

It's funny how life works. About this time a few months ago I was talking to my wellness coach, Cheryl, saying that I would put exercise on hold for the month. After several months of not meeting my exercise goals (AT ALL) I was frustrated and just didn't feel worrying about it. It was time to put it on the back burner and focus on other things.... 

And then magically it just sort of happened anyway. I received the email from ENELL saying I had been chosen as one of their blog ambassadors and I knew if I wanted to be honest about my use of the wonderful products that ENELL makes, I had to start walking again. 

To encourage and support myself to start walking again, I signed up for a 5K. I had not participated in a 5K in several years. 

This 5K was special to me, not only to signify getting back on my journey to health & wellness, but to celebrate the one-year birthday of my Dad's new heart... one year of amazing lifegiving heart-beats. I'm so thankful for that heart transplant, I'm so thankful that my Dad has been given more time. 

Dad's had a rough go at it. It hasn't been an easy year. With a very suppressed immune system, he's spent more time in the hospital than at home... but amazingly he keeps going. He keeps on, keepin' on. And that is a lot harder than you might think. When life becomes more about getting your medications right, losing physical strength and slowly regaining it back only to be side-lined by a broken ankle... life has not been easy for my Dad this year. 

If Dad's taught me anything this year, it's to NEVER give up. Life will not go according to our plans... but we have to keep going. People need us, we need to learn resilience and persistence, and we have to learn why life is worth it. Life is so worth it. 

To celebrate my Dad's new heart, I wanted to do this walk. I wanted to get my own health back on track with physical activity and to celebrate the beginning of this journey with the Blue Ridge Veteran's 5K Celebration. And what's a better cause than to celebrate with this country's great veterans? 

I proudly wore my ENELL gear and walked the 5K with my stepmom Betty in 51 minutes and 43 seconds! We were very proud! (And Betty is definitely in better shape than I am! :-) 

There were about 60 participants in this 5K and it included many US Veterans in the Roanoke area of Virginia. I was so honored to walk beside them and support their foundation, support my dad, and share my love of ENELL and their . It was such a great day, despite the cloudy weather! 

Afterwards we all went back to the rehab center to spend a few more hours with my Dad before we returned home to eastern NC. Dad was very proud of excited for us... and it just so happens after 3 months of being in and out of hospitals and rehabs... he's going home tomorrow! 

We love you so much Dad! And we're supporting you and SO glad you're going home!

GLG Disclosure: 
This post is part of a new series sponsored by ENELLThe ENELL Ambassador program provides fitness apparel and pays for fitness event registration fees in exchange for blog posts shared about the blogger's  fitness experience. The opinions in this post are completely my own. I , and other bloggers in the Enell Ambassador Program are not monetarily compensated for any blog posts written for/or about ENELL products. 

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Monday, September 8, 2014

Celebrating 1 year of Dad's New Heart -- with a little help from ENELL

Walking at 5am... I never thought this would be something I'd enjoy!

Today marks 10 days that I've gotten up super duper early (well at least for ME... I know other people do this all the time! God Bless You!) and spent 45 minutes - an hour or more taking a daily walk.

I've been doing this mainly to practice for a 5K that I'm walking this upcoming Sunday, September 14th in honor of my Dad. It will mark 1 full year since my Dad received his "new" heart. Dad has had a lot of ups & downs since receiving his heart.

His body has had to readjust to life with new medications, recovering from bouts of illness (due to taking immuno-suppressants, etc..), and now recovering from a broken ankle with more major surgery. My Dad is truly a miracle man. He's survived more than most people could and I'm so proud of him these past few months as he's managed to maintain a positive attitude despite having to live in a rehab facility and learn how to walk again... on TOP of all the health/suppressed immune system challenges of having a new heart.

Dad you're amazing! 
I hope you realize what a miracle you are and how inspiring you are to me 
(and SO many others)! 

I wrote a post a few weeks ago about being a new ENELL Ambassador. ENELL is a sports apparel company for well-endowed women. Their goal is to help women of ALL sizes to have sports bras & t-shirts that are made just for them to help them feel both supported and comfortable in their health & wellness journeys.  When I was chosen as an Ambassador (rather shockingly to me!) I decided that if I truly wanted to represent this company I needed to faithfully use the equipment and seriously get started on my journey to health.

So I've started a daily practice of walking. My general goal every day before work is to walk two miles. I live in a small neighborhood in a rural area in eastern NC. I'm surrounded by tobacco fields, cotton fields, sweet potato fields, cantaloupe and watermelon fields (all depending on the seasons!) horse & cattle farms, etc...

This week when my first package of ENELL sports gear came in, I was honestly too excited to wear it. The new sports bra is part of their seasonal limited edition color series and it is shiny teal SCUBA BLUE! Along with it came a black warm up jacket (wayyyy too warm for that yet!), a super breathable hat, and the coolest work-out t-shirt I've ever seen! "I'm kind of a BIG DEAL!" ENELL you are so awesome!

By day 4 of my morning walks, I had to try out the new sports bra & t-shirt. Let me tell you, this is the MOST comfortable sports bra & t-shirt I have ever worn when working out. ENELL's products are such high quality that they actually help you WANT to go out and take a walk! I love not only the chest support that the bra provides, but it's really awesome back & core support as well!

And on my walks I try to get at least one picture of the morning sky... here are a few of my favorites over the past 10 days...

So far in 10 days I've walked 27 miles, more than I've done in the past 2 years! :-) I've been able to stick to it (probably more because I HAVE to get up early since my work schedule has changed... so we'll say that's a POSITIVE outcome of having to open the library every day! lol)... and Michael has even joined me on several mornings.

Next Monday I'll recap the 5K that we're walking in celebration of my Dad's first year with his new heart and share more about my daily walking practice and future 5K's we plan on participating in!

Do you have a daily practice? 

GLG Disclosure: 
This post is part of a new series sponsored by ENELLThe ENELL Ambassador program provides fitness apparel and pays for fitness event registration fees in exchange for blog posts shared about the blogger's  fitness experience. The opinions in this post are completely my own. I , and other bloggers in the Enell Ambassador Program are not monetarily compensated for any blog posts written for/or about ENELL products. 

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